COLUMN: Take China’s flag off Main Street, replace it with Hong Kong’s

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither”

Smithers should take China’s flag off Main Street and replace it with Hong Kong’s.

If you’re like me and spend a lot of time on social media for work-related purposes, or even if you’re just a casual user, you’ve probably seen some viral posts about the protests going on in Hong Kong right now.

Due to a combination of our fleeting attention spans and that “the revolution will not be televized,” however, most people haven’t a clue about what exactly these protests are about.

I sure didn’t.

But after researching the events leading up to this explosion of protests across the Chinese region I can say, without a doubt, those looking for an example of a modern-day patriot need look no further than your average Hong Kong protestor.

The super-condensed version of it is this: Hong Kong is almost like its own country, but it’s not. It’s what’s known as a Special Administrative Region (SAR), meaning it’s a region within China with a high level of autonomy.

Unlike the other regions in mainland China — ruled by the Communist Party of China (CPC) — this means Hong Kong (and Macau) have their own constitutions, different than the one governing the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom to petition are just some of the privileges offered to those lucky enough to live in one of China’s SARs.

And while many of those freedoms — notably freedom of speech and freedom of the press — have been slightly eroded away since the United Kingdom handed sovereignty of Hong Kong back over to China (that’s another story featuring the British Empire getting nearly all of Hong Kong, and massive parts of China, hooked onto opium so they could flip the resource for tea they sold back to Europeans for massive profits) in 1997, it’s still remained a beacon of democracy in the most populated communist country in the world.

Now, however, in stark contrast to the gradual reduction in freedoms Hong Kongers have faced over the last two decades and change, a new bill proposed by the head of Hong Kong’s government Carrie Lam poses a more urgent threat.

The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill, if passed, would amend the region’s laws so a case-by-case mechanism could be established for transfers of fugitives with any jurisdiction lacking a formal extradition treaty between itself and Hong Kong — including Mainland China. While the bill was suspended on June 15, because it was not fully withdrawn from Parliament, protestors have fears it could be resurrected in the future.

The essence of this bill is, at best, another chip off of the region’s autonomy.

At worst (this is the fear of many protestors) it means, if passed, Hong Kong activists demonstrating in Mainland China on behalf of democratic reform could be seized when they return home and jailed elsewhere in the country (including Mainland China).

And so they fight for their right to party.

To publish.

Vote.

When I say we should take China’s flag off Main Street I’m being slightly hyperbolic (I’d have to check with Mark Allen, but I imagine there is space for both).

What I’m really saying — while in no way suggesting we forget about the men and women in China who aren’t afforded the same democratic tools Hong Kongers have been given to fight back against a slow burn into fascism — is let’s support the former so perhaps one day the latter can have a chance of reforms of their own.

You can call it what you want: It’s still a one-party dictatorship. The country does not have free elections or civil rights. There is heavy censorship (Google “The Great Firewall of China) and you can be stopped from travelling with a couple clicks on a computer screen (it also has literal internment camps for Muslims).

And so when I see these brave men and women fighting to protect their region and people, it makes me feel like we can’t help but acknowledge their plight, struggle and bravery.

It also reminds me of another great (yet seemingly-forgotten) quote from another patriot.

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither.”

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